New York — Less than a year after the National Association of City Transportation Officials released its Urban Street Design Guide, the U.S. Department of Transportation endorsed this vision for safe, sustainable, city-friendly street designs. Federal support for the guide ensures that practitioners have both the permission and the flexibility to design streets that support safe walking and biking, as well as efficient transit.
While much of the recent rhetoric around transportation has surrounded the impending Highway Trust Fund’s insolvency, this announcement by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) signals concrete administrative progress, in spite of the congressional gridlock. In a statement released on July 25, 2014, FHWA’s Offices of Planning, Environment, and Realty; Infrastructure; Safety; and Operations jointly announced their official support and endorsement of NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide. The move, suggested in October 2013 by then-FHWA Administrator and current Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez at NACTO’s Designing Cities conference in Phoenix, solidifies and clarifies federal support for design standards that celebrate streets as public spaces for people, as well as critical arteries for mobility.
The statement, which came in the form of a Q&A, effectively extends FHWA’s August 20, 2013, design flexibility memorandum to explicitly include the Urban Street Design Guide. The August 2013 memorandum expressed FHWA’s support for taking a flexible approach to bicycle and pedestrian facility design, and supported the use of NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Two months later, the Urban Street Design Guide was released, in October 2013.
The July 2014 Q&A states that “The Urban Street Design Guide can serve as one of many sources to inform the planning and design process” and that “FHWA supports the use of the Urban Street Design Guide in conjunction with the other resources…in the process of developing nonmotorized transportation networks.”
FHWA’s support of the Urban Street Design Guide builds upon the success that NACTO member cities have witnessed in other national arenas, such as the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Device, which in June 2014 announced support for the remaining bikeway treatments in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide not currently reflected in the MUTCD. These motions together underscore an accelerating national momentum and growing consensus towards the design of bicycle, pedestrian, and transit-friendly streets.
For more information on the NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide, visit nacto.org/usdg.